My friend Maggie and I decided to do a very obvious thing this semester and start a storytelling night at Sarah Lawrence. This is my favorite type of thing, because it is simple, self-propelled and inclusive. It makes people feel good, and creates connections, even if its just good-natured laughter, between people who haven’t met before. There is something distinctly inclusive and cozy about telling strangers intimate details of your life, and have them chuckle appreciatively in recognition of common human foibles.
We had billed the event as taking place in A*Space, but the gallery space was hot and sticky to the point of oppression, and my friend Kat had the brilliant idea to gather outside. We also had another motivation to move the stories elsewhere, because the night had started with a story of its own. I was standing at the industrial sink filling a hot water heater for tea, when a squirrel flew in the window past my head, and scampered into the gallery space, producing disembodied yelps from my friends who had arrived early to help set up.
So, multiple factors led to us forming a circle of chairs in front of the Science Center, with me sitting on a big rock, a list of names forming on a piece of brown paper duck-taped to the rock wall behind me.
Maggie and I started out with our stories, just to get the ball rolling and make everyone feel a little bit more comfortable. It was important to demonstrate that this was in no way a professional venture, or some sort of craft workshop on storytelling – we’re just amateurs who like good stories like everyone else.
I can’t speak for anyone else who was there that night, but I think the reason I didn’t get nervous was because this wasn’t a stage – it was just some good time storytelling amongst friends, albeit some you hadn’t met yet. I’ll say I was pleasantly floored by the other stories shared that night, and especially grateful that people were so generous with their experiences. It really is a gift.
It was also made particularly special to me because I would say that the majority of the people who came weren’t theater majors, or performers, but just curious people. Storytelling is for everyone – I would argue that it is better when unrehearsed and raw – the realizations and conclusions are then genuine.